High Country Mom: Kelly Sechrist

Meet Kelly Sechrist. Kelly is one of the most inspiring people I know. She has been a teacher, a mom, a friend, and much more! I really got to know Kelly while I was going to the Wellness Center, and she inspired me with her commitment to training for long distance running, and getting in shape! She and I have had wonderful discussion on everything from mommy-hood to politics, and I respect her greatly. I asked her to share a few aspects of her life, and she graciously agreed!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, and how long have you lived in the High Country?
Wow! This is a great question…I am truly a product of how and where I grew up…My family moved quite a bit throughout the years as my dad followed his calling to be a minister and a missionary. Although I call the High Country (Ashe County & Watauga County) my home since it is the birthplace of my parents, I have also called many other towns home. Our family lived in a number of diverse places ranging from small town Eastern North Carolina, to rural Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia and even the world metropolis of Tokyo, Japan. I feel very lucky to have experienced life through the eyes of so many different locales and people. I have a broad world view because of our lifestyle. Another benefit is that I speak Japanese!

My husband, David, and I have made our home here in the High Country for the last thirteen years. During that time, we have also brought our wonderful children into the world! Cameron is almost nine and in the third grade, Cohen is five and in Kindergarten, and Katie Gray is three and attends preschool. Our daughter, Abigail, who would have been seven this October, died in 2001. Losing our child has had an incredible impact on our family as we were forced to grow stronger in our faith, our love for each other, and our ability to survive through adversity.

You have a Teaching Degree. Where did you teach, and when did you decide to stay full-time with your children?
I truly believe that I was called to be a teacher. I LOVE teaching! I taught middle school language arts and social studies at Parkway School for several years before I had my children. When I became pregnant with Cameron in 1999, I decided that I would take a maternity leave and return to school. When he finally arrived that November, I became less and less sure about returning to work…I kept pushing back my return to work until I finally resigned in the summer of 2000 and became a stay at home mom. I have never regretted the decision to be with my children. I love being a mom and all the things that go along with that role—from playgroups to park trips, Tweetsie days to sick days, and music classes to class parties. Through out the past nine years, I have worked part time at different points with my husband’s technology company. I do miss teaching middle schoolers and being a in a regular professional setting, and we have had to make sacrifices in order for me to stay home. I feel very lucky to be able to make this decision because so many women don’t have the choice to stay home. We can all stay connected to our families and our children by supporting the decisions that we make as individuals for our families!

When and why did you get involved in running?
I ran track in high school and ran some in my twenties. I always enjoyed exercise and tried to always incorporate it into my life. I was able to do that pretty easily after I had Cameron in 1999, but found less and less time to devote to exercise as our other children were born. Through pregnancies and nursing, I gained quite a bit of weight. At the end of my last pregnancy after five weeks of bed rest, I weighed the most I had ever weighed…I did not feel well, and my doctor told me that my high blood pressure in pregnancy might be a sign of things to come. I decided that I had to do something pro-active to make sure that I was healthy in body and mind. My first step, thanks to a Christmas gift from my parents, was to join the Wellness Center. Believe me, the start was SLOW! I began by riding the bike and reading each day for about 45 minutes…I slowly worked my way to taking a few classes here and there…As my energy returned, so did my interest in more challenging physical activities. My friend, Renee Robinson, a life long runner, began to talk to me about running more and more. She encouraged me to set a race goal and work toward it. We decided to try for the Cooper River 10K race the following April—just a year and four months after I returned to exercise. I could run only one minute at a time when we started in October of 2006. By April of 2007, I not only completed the 10K but did so without stopping. After that race, I was HOOKED!!! I have since run a number of races—including running The Bear twice. My newest goal is a half marathon in December. Renee and I are still running together and working toward new and more challenging goals. We even added biking recently to our workouts. An added benefit is that my children are very interested in running too. Cohen and Cameron have both participated in Tailwinds Track Club.

What was your first/ most challenging long-distance run? How did it feel to train, and to finish the race?
I think that the most challenging run was probably that first minute that I decided to return to running after so many years…Second to that was the first time I did the Cooper River Bridge Run. As a beginning runner, I could barely imagine that I could run 3 miles, let alone 6.1! I remember standing there on the start line that day with my friends Renee Robinson and Dee Pellicio and thinking…”WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I DOING!!??!”

As for finishing the race? I don’t know yet—I am still “racing” toward bigger and bigger goals! Some of the best post race feelings have been the personal records that I have achieved, including running The Bear in under an hour!

What advice would you give moms who want to begin a commitment like this, whether it be physical fitness, or some other change in their lives?
One of the things that my dad told me over and over and over is that I can do ANYTHING that I set my mind to do—All I have to do is dream and plan to work hard at the task. I take that to heart in all that I do—whether it is school, parenting, physical fitness, or volunteer work, I strive to be the best I can be…We owe it to ourselves to find our cause—what makes us really excited and alive. It may be more than one thing or maybe not. It may stay the same our whole lives or not, but the fact remains that being passionate about something allows us to truly live.

Your dad is NC State Senator Steve Goss. What did you think/say when you first learned he was running for office?
I am asked this question frequently—What does the family of a retired Southern Baptist minister say when he comes to them to discuss the possibility of running—not for a local office—but for a STATE SENATE SEAT? I have a story I like to share that illustrates how we felt at that moment when my parents gathered us in the living room of their modest house on Morningside Drive a little over three years ago. My mom and I often joke that little shocks us about my dad. A poor orphan from the backwoods of Ashe county who walked into Appalachian State University in 1968 and said “charge it” is living proof that a person can do whatever he sets his mind to do. My dad earned everything he ever attained—his education, his work ethic, his livelihood. One particular childhood story stands out in my mind…One day, when I was about eight years old, my father came home from the church where he pastored. He was particularly excited when he asked, “Do you guys want to live in Japan or the Bahamas?” We all kind of laughed, but one year later—We arrived in Tokyo’s Narita airport with all we owned packed in 6 suitcases. Needless to say, there is little my dad can do to surprise our family! To say that I was surprised when he sought our opinion about running for Senate would not be accurate…As soon as we found out the plan to run for office, we were immediately supportive of his decision and willing to work hard to help him!

How has your dad’s position impacted you and the lives of your family?
My dad’s position as State Senator has had such a positive impact on our family. We are able to work hard together for a common goal—I have been lucky to be integrally involved in the campaign work surrounding my dad’s election, my children have learned about state government in the most hands on way possible, and my dad has been able to minister to a group of people, his constituents, in an attempt to work for the benefit of all the people of the 45th district. The only downside is that we miss him since we don’t see him as much as when he was a retired Pa pa!

How can a “regular” mom become more informed or involved in local and state political issues?
READ READ READ READ READ!!!! I can’t stress enough that we need to read the news, the legislative reports, the internet, etc. to keep abreast of pressing issues facing women and families at the national, local, and state levels. Open dialogues through email and phone calls with your elected officials on things about which you feel passionately. They are elected by your vote and ultimately those politicians answer to you. You must be well informed!!!

Finally…VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I challenge EACH of you to be sure to vote this November and to encourage at least two other people (or more!!!) to go to the polls. Offer to take them—whatever it takes. Voting is our number one right in our country of freedom. We must make our voices heard!.


  1. Kelly,
    You continue to be an inspiration to all of us! Thank you for sharing your story! Miss you, love you & hope to see you soon!!

  2. You go,girlfriend! Your story encourages so many of us as we work through common losses, and challenges. I am so proud of you. You are a wonderful wife, terrific Mom, devoted worker (Boone service league, Church, school, and community), and cool friend. ‘Love you! Sharon

  3. A wonderful tribute to an incredible woman!

  4. kelly,..you are an inspiration and I enjoyed your story. I am touched by how your faith and family have guided you and I hope you continue on your journey,..which, undoubtably, you are very determined. Sharon’s right,..you go, girlfriend!!!

  5. Sharon B. Gambill says

    Kelly, your story is amazing and I am going to tell it at WMU Meeting in October!
    I love your grandmother, Meryl Queen, and you have so many of her wonderful
    attributes. YOU GO, GIRL! GO WITH GOD!

  6. Sharon B. Gambill says

    Kelly, you are so amazing, shades of your wonderful grandmother and my dear
    friend, Meryl Queen! Keep on “keeping on.” Go with God!

  7. Meryl Queen (Nana) says

    Kelly, I am so proud of you and the lovely woman you have become. Your determination and strong faith will reflect greatly in your role as a MOM….go girl go! I am proud to claim you as my granddaughter!

  8. Patriotic Woman says

    Kelly, thank you for inspiring women out there to take some time out for themselves to care for their health–God knows, they deserve it!!! And thank you for encouraging women to stay “in the know” about politics by reading everything! It is so important for women to study the issues to be able to defend their rights! You are right, “READ, READ, READ” and “VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!”